Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More on North Korean Missile Tests

Kim Jong II has a couple of problems: missiles that don't work very well and a very angry world. The initial news reports spoke of two or three missiles. There appears to have been at least six and possibly as many as ten missiles fired, according to some reports. Dana Priest and Anthony Faiola of The Washington Post have the story:
North Korea test-fired at least six missiles yesterday, including its long-range Taepodong-2, senior U.S. officials said, defying strong warnings from the United States and regional powers in Asia.

The controversial long-range missile failed less than a minute after launch, falling into the Sea of Japan, along with the other, less-sophisticated missiles. Diplomatic and military officials played down any imminent threat, but Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, called the display of firepower on the Fourth of July "provocative behavior."

In addition to prompting swift condemnation in Washington and Japan, the launches set off a flurry of diplomatic consultations. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began calling Asian capitals that were waking to the news, and the U.N. Security Council was set to take up the matter today. Meanwhile, a special U.S. envoy, Christopher R. Hill, was dispatched to consult with allies.

Apparently, China and South Korea, who tend to be more patient with North Korea, have taken a dim view of North Korea's demonstration of missile power. If this was a sales pitch to third world countries who might be interested in buying North Korean technology, Kim Jong II may have just bought himself a broadly endorsed trade embargo with his expensive tantrum.

But there'll be more to learn in the next few days before anyone can say with certainty what this was all about. I'll be watching the Bush Administration closely, and then listening to nonadministration experts to find out what the full story is. I'll also be watching the Chinese to see how well they handle the situation. When it comes to keeping the peace, the Chinese can probably be useful, if they choose to be, and if they have finally developed a foreign policy apparatus that can help with some sort of resolution; preferably a resolution beyond purely Chinese concerns (which in the long run would be in China's interest).

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